|Poster:||Shug909||Date:||Aug 3, 2016 4:19pm|
|Forum:||GratefulDead||Subject:||Re: An Old Question: When Did You Know?|
July 26, 1987 Anaheim Stadium The Grateful Dead with Bob Dylan was my first Grateful Dead show. I went for two reasons: At that point I’d go see Dylan anytime, anywhere, no exceptions and two, I’d FINALLY get to check out the Grateful Dead. I was 20 years old and had been a hardcore music fan for about half my life, with The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Bob Dylan being my all-time faves at the time. I learned a lot about music from my local record store in Escondido, CA called Gary’s Record Paradise, just a tiny little place with new and used vinyl and a few shelves of ‘head shop’ stuff including bumper stickers that said “There Is Nothing Like A Grateful Dead Concert”, That phrase had always piqued my curiosity about what kind of rock band could have such mystique and power in its concerts that would be so well known to those in the know (yet so mysterious to outsiders) that they could inspire such a simple yet bold slogan to be etched in relative permanence on a mass-produced bumper sticker? I was intrigued, but for some unknown and synchronistic reason, never enough to make me seek out their music. What I’d heard of Grateful Dead music on the radio as a kid sounded like mellow country-ish folk rock that I was not yet interested in (before I’d gotten into Dylan). Rock books that I’d read on the 60s labeled the Dead ‘‘acid rock” which in my mind meant heavy metal and what I’d heard (studio version of stuff from American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead) didn’t sound like metal nor did the music fit the image in my mind conjured up by the name Grateful Dead and the skeleton iconography of their visual rock art, either. This was truly a rock ‘n’ roll enigma for my young mind, but I let it simmer without exploring it too much until several years later. In the early 80s, once I had started going to rock concerts regularly and was always scouring the concert pages of the LA Times and San Diego newspapers, I remember seeing the ads for Dead shows at Irvine Meadows and other LA area venues, where it seemed they played several times a year every year and where they often played several nights in row each time!. Clearly there was something incredibly attractive about Dead concerts to people that they would do so many shows, but for the Dead to have its own cultish following shrouded in what seemed like secrets of initiation was puzzling. “Wow, there really must be something that makes people love this music so much. I don’t get it, though.”
As I got into Dylan (via the Byrds) I started to open up to the country and folk side of rock music and I was unknowingly becoming primed to get into the Dead. I met Mellisa, the ex-wife of Gary, owner of Gary’s Record Paradise. She was into the Dead, he was not. He looked a little bit like Frank Zappa. I think the Dead were partially responsible for them not staying together, but that’s just speculation. Another employee at the shop was also into the Dead and he informed me that the Dead often covered Dylan, but not on records, only on live tapes. He invited me over to his house and he had tons of tapes of shows, none of them labeled with the setlists, just the dates and venues or cities. I just wanted to hear all the different Dylan covers he had, but he didn’t really know what song was on what tape very well, so it was a cumbersome process to search through his collection for the Dylan covers, so I just settled on a few of his choice picks. He gave me 7-13-84 Greek Theater, but just the second half of the second set for some reason. I listened to Space>The Wheel>I Need A Miracle>Stella Blue>Sugar Magnolia over and over. The Wheel and Stella Blue immediately grabbed my attention. He also gave me some version of Its All Over Now Baby Blue and I was floored by the emotion that Garcia sang this with and the loose, rambling way the band sounded, earthy and organic in tone and in no hurry to reach a particular destination but rather focused on getting into the feeling of the song, it sounded. “Hmm, I guess I was wrong about the Dead, there is really something to them. And it seems that the people who get it have their own collective little secret and that the rest of the world has a mistaken notion of what the Dead are all about. I think I kinda like this stuff.”
When I told Mellisa and this other Head who gave me my first tape I was thinking about going up to Anaheim to see the Dead live, they said they were too and I could ride along with them if I wanted. So these older Heads were about to show me how it was done going to a really long daytime concert. I wasn’t smoking at that time and they didn’t pressure me, but once we were in our seats it felt right and I partook for the first time in a few years. “Wow, the Dead are a REALLY good rock band! This crowd seems really cool and mellow and friendly for a rock audience. People are dancing and smiling and interacting with one another. And they are REALLY listening to the music!” I was amazed at lots of things on that day: how a dude could be the only dancing, standing up person in an entire section of sitters and not one person every asked him to sit down! I had some kind of stoned epiphany about the deep and significant meaning of the lyrics “little red light on the highway, big green light on the speedway” that I, of course, could not remember the next day.
We got a rollicking Iko Iko opener, a smoldering blues, a cowboy tune, a train song, an appropriate-for-the-setting song about the ugly side of Hollywood, a Dylan cover, a dreamy-spacey wandering Bird Song and a Chuck Berry rocker to close out the set. After the first set was over, I was feeling great, glowing with amazement at how great this music was and I was happy to be around such nice people. I, however, realized how thirsty I was. I really didn’t feel like getting out of my seat to navigate the crowded halls or wait in long lines. My hosts, after asking what I was thinking about, blew me away with their seemingly magic ability to pull out of their bag just about anything that seemed desirable at any given moment. You see, when I told them I was thirsty but was too stoned to leave my seat, they immediately said “Well have some of this” and at that moment pulled out of their bags slices of cold watermelon and I will tell you I was never so happy to eat that thirst quenching stuff and I don’t even like watermelon! I was amazed, these Deadheads had through years of experience perfected and elevated the skills of concert-going far beyond anything I had seen and I had already seen a lot of rock shows by the time I was 20. It didn’t stop there, either. Later in the show, after the Dead’s second set and over three hours into the hot summer day with still a couple more hours to go, they offered up tabs of vitamin B-12 saying “You’ll need these for energy for the Dylan set”!
The music was fantastic and only got better in the second set. I got a nice Shakedown second set opener, my wished-for Stella Blue, and a mind-blowing Terrapin Station in all its orchestral bombastic glory! I was dancing my ass off and smiling perma-grin, exalted and joyous to discover what the big deal with the Grateful Dead was all about. As if that wasn’t enough, one of my all-time musical heroes was still to come AND he’d be backed by the Dead, who could play the shit out of Americana roots music of any style! Dylan’s set was also a revelation for me, full of rarities that I’d never thought I’d ever get to hear him play like Watching The River Flow, Simple Twist of Fate and Chimes of Freedom as well as highly regarded epics like Ballad Of A Thin Man and Stuck Inside of Mobile and hits like Mr. Tambourine Man, Maggie’s Farm and Its All Over Now Baby Blue, all backed by that easy-going shambling Grateful Dead music. It was by far the best Dylan set I’d ever seen for the song selection, but even more for the sympatico musical wavelength that the Dead and Dylan were on. What took them so many years to play together? It seemed like a near-perfect musical pairing that was surely destined to happen and I was lucky enough to be there when it finally did AND it was all wrapped up in the overwhelming experience of seeing my very first Grateful Dead concert!
When it came time for the Touch of Grey encore, I swear the entire stadium was on its feet, dancing, twirling, rocking out with a joyful abandon that I just could not believe. A huge electric feeling of happiness filled that stadium and I’d never experienced anything like it at any rock show I’d yet been to. All these people, all focused on the same thing, feeling the same thing at the same time, everyone happy and open to one another and the joyfulness of being alive and music was the vehicle for it all, the center of the celebration. I was overwhelmed with joy and a thrilling feeling that I’d at long last found the home I never even knew I was missing. I immediately became a Deadhead through and through.
After the show I was thinking that this was just like the first time I discovered pot, that the Dead had been waiting for me all these years, that I would eventually get into them had always been a foregone certainty that I just didn’t know about, and that this day was a major culmination of destiny in my life. My only question was “When is the next time I get to see this band? I’d go tomorrow night and every night after that if I could”
Yeah, the summer of Touch of Grey was a big one for me, a life-changer for sure. I never felt weird or lesser or had anyone judge me for getting into the Dead at that particular time. And I do wish I’d gone to see them years earlier, but then again things happen for a reason and I got into the band when I was most ready for it. That’s just how the universe works, in my view and I’m more than grateful that I got to see so many fantastic Dead shows in the years I went.
This post was modified by Shug909 on 2016-08-03 23:19:02